Sep 27, 2013

Posted by in Reviews | 5 Comments

Review: Charming by Elliott James (Pax Arcana #1)

charming4 star

Urban Fantasy
September 24 2013
Mass Market Paperback
400 pages
Orbit Books
Received from publisher via NetGalley

Yummy Man – John Charming

From Goodreads –
John Charming isn’t your average Prince…

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar… Right?


Charming is the first book in Elliott James’ new Pax Arcana series.  I have read a few reviews for this book and I have seen quite a few ratings and unfortunately, they have not always been complimentary.  After reading this book, I can see how some did not enjoy reading this as much as they wished they did.  But let me tell you something, I am not one of those people.   I really enjoyed this book.

Let me tell you why.

I loved John Charming.  I loved his voice, his wit and his snark.  He is a Knight (someone who hunts paranormal beings) but he’s also half-werewolf.  He does not shift but that does not matter to his kin.  He is part enemy and therefore must be destroyed.  So John has been on the run for most of his life and until now, didn’t mind too too much.  The issue now is that he has met a group of people, and one in particular, that is making him want to settle where he is but he knows that it not possible.  So he is brooding and a little pissered.  But he sucks it up because deep down, he’s still a Knight and knows he needs to help rid the world of evil paranormals.  So even against his better judgement, he sticks around for a while and helps his new friends find and defeat a crazy vampire queen and her nest.

I just really loved how complex John was.  Elliott wrote him so well that you can completely relate to him.  He has such a strong and rich history and most of that comes from the stories John shares either as external or internal dialogue.

The idea of the Pax Arcana is also very interesting.  It’s a spell of sorts that makes ordinary humans think and feel different things when facing the paranormal.  That way, they stay hidden and we either forget or just think we are suffering from temporary insanity.  I loved how Elliott used real-life situations that we have all encountered and made them seem like the work of the Pax Arcana.  So clever on his part!

There were a few scenes that sort of came out of nowhere (there is one scene with a ghost in particular) and then the story went right back which was a bit odd.  These ‘out of nowhere scenes’ did share some important information but they still just felt stuck in to make sure we got said info.  I also found this was the way Sig was written, which brings me to pretty much the only real issue I had with this book.  Sig.

I did not have an issue with Sig per say.  I had an issue with how she was developed over the course of the book.  Sig is a mystery at first, which is fine.  John is intrigued by her.  Basically, he finds her hot.  Eventually, he finds her smart and loyal and clever and and and…  The problem for me was that we don’t see that from her.  It’s like we missed the part where all those qualities are demonstrated to us.  We learn more later and it then clicks a bit, but by then John is smitten and you’re left wondering how he could have fallen so quickly when we just are just now finding out all of this great stuff about her!  They do have good chemistry and I’m sure things will feel more natural and feel as though they make more sense in the next book but for this book, that feeling of missing chunks of important character development was prominent when it came to Sig and it made me wish I knew exactly what John saw in her.  It was odd how John was so well written and Sig was lacking a bit.

Other than that, I found the story to be really solid, the premise quite different, the pacing good and the supporting characters enjoyable.  And the villain was strong too.  I was taken by surprise near the end when, in the middle of all of the action, the villain seems to change.  But then doesn’t.  Then does again.  Basically the bad guy that you thought was the bad guy ends up not being the bad guy but then re-becomes the bad guy then gets replaced by an even bigger bad guy but does he really?!… I found Elliott did a great job with this and I am glad the villain met the end it did.  *shudders*

I want to bring up one more important-to-me thing that I have read people have issues with.  There is a lot of description and explaining in this story.  Lots.  Now if you follow my blog, you know that when it comes to description, I tend to be a skipper.  I have trouble caring whether a door is blue or black or where the fruit that the hero is about to eat originates from.  But in Charming, I wanted to know.  I found myself reading each and every word because I just found it all so fascinating!  The book is told in the first person from John’s perspective and his voice captured me so completely, I wanted to learn all about what he was saying.  It also made the world Elliott built that much more captivating.  As I was reading, I kept thinking back to Kevin Hearne and the way he writes his Atticus character in the Iron Druid Chronicles series.  If you read those books then you know exactly what I mean by tons of backstory and explanations because that is exactly how Kevin writes them.  But all of that ‘extra’ is really worth reading.  If you are someone who is not into knowing everything about everything going on and showing up and being done on the page, then I can see how you would have an issue with Charming.  But I really hope you don’t because it really does add layers to the story Elliott and John are telling.

All in all, I had trouble putting this book down.  I just loved Charming.  And the Sig issue and the ‘out of nowhere scenes’ issue I had weren’t enough to completely hinder my reading.  It was more of a ‘hmm…I wish that didn’t happen’ than an ‘Aug!’.  I thought of this book long after I finished reading it and I find myself wondering how the next book will go because really, with the info we got at the end of this book, it could go anywhere.  Elliott created an extremely strong male lead in John, one who I can’t wait to read again.

4 stars

And p.s.  If you read this book and enjoy it, there are some prequel novellas available.  I will be checking them out for sure.  🙂

Giggle worthy quotes –

“’That chick with big breasts wants you,’ Cahill said suddenly, staring at Tracy.  ‘She keeps looking at you and giving me the stink-eye.’

‘She’s got a hole in her life,’ I said.  ‘And she’s decided it’s penis-shaped.’”


“I opened Sig’s car door first.  A trained killer who has sworn to eradicate you lurking in the vicinity is no reason to forget your manners.”


“’How could anybody dislike you?’ I asked, forking some sweet-and-spicy chicken off my plate.  ‘You’re a bundle of sunbeams.’

‘I’m a mean mother hmmnhmmnh man of God,’ she informed me.  ‘Except that I’m a woman, of course.’

‘You just quoted something, didn’t you?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I did,’ Molly agreed.  She seemed calm, but her heart was beating fast.  ‘From Dust Till Dawn.  It’s a vampire movie with George Clooney.’

‘Is it too late to get a different priest?’ Choo wondered.  ‘Like maybe one who quotes the Bible?’


  1. I had an issue with Sig. I couldn’t help feel she used people to get what she wanted. John on the other hand, awesome!!

  2. I had some misgivings about this book, now I’m intrigued.

  3. I’m glad you liked it better than me, I hope I’ll be more interested in book 2!

  4. Paranormal Haven – John rocked!

    Bookaholic Cat – I want to know what you think!!!

    Melliane – I am very curious to see what you think of book 2 – if it was the style you didn’t click with or just the way this first book was written. It will be interesting to see…

  5. Nice review Julie, you really got me interested now.

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